The Stoneman
Number of victims: 13
Span of killings: 1989–1989
Country: India
Date apprehended: Unapprehended

The Stoneman was a name given by the popular English language print media of Kolkata to an alleged serial killer who menaced the streets of that city in 1989.

The Stoneman was credited with thirteen murders over six months (the first in June 1989), but it was never established whether the crimes were the handiwork of one person or a group of individuals. The Calcutta police also failed to resolve whether any of the crimes was committed as a copycat murder. To date, no one has been sentenced for these crimes, making this one of the greatest unsolved mysteries plaguing modern metropolitan Indian police forces.


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Mumbai killings

The first hint of a serial-killer who was targeting homeless ragpickers and beggars in India came from Mumbai. Starting in 1985, and lasting well over two years, a series of twelve murders were committed in the Sion and King’s Circle locality of the city. The criminal or criminals’ modus operandi was simple: first he or she would find an unsuspecting victim sleeping alone in a desolate area. The victim’s head was crushed with a single stone weighing as much as 30 kg. In most cases, the victims’ identities could not be ascertained since they slept alone and did not have relatives or associates who could identify them. Compounded to this was the fact that the victims were people of very simple means and the individual crimes were not high-profile. It was only after the sixth murder that the Mumbai police began to see a pattern in the crimes.

A stroke of luck seemed to come the police’s way when a homeless waiter survived a brutal attack and managed to escape being bludgeoned to death. However, in the dimly lit area of Sion where he was sleeping, he had not been able to get a good look at his assailant, and what seemed like a big break came to naught.

Shortly afterwards, in 1987, a ragpicker was hacked to death in the adjoining suburb of Matunga. Even though the police and the media were quick to label this the handiwork of the same person, no evidence to link this crime with the others was ever found.

As mysteriously as the killings had started, by the middle of 1987, they stopped.

Summer of 1989 in Calcutta

Whether or not the Mumbai killings were linked to the Calcutta “Stoneman” killings has never been confirmed. However, the uncanny similarity in the instrument, choice of victims, execution, and the time of the attacks, suggests someone familiar with the Mumbai episodes, if not the same killer.

The first victim in Calcutta died from injuries to the head in June 1989. Twelve more would die in the next six months as panic gripped the city. All of the murdered were homeless pavement-dwellers who slept alone in dimly lit areas of the city.

Because the murderer killed victims by dropping a heavy stone or concrete slab, the police assumed that the assailant was probably a tall, well-built male. However, in the complete absence of any eyewitnesses or survivors, no clear-cut leads were available.

Massive deployments of police in various parts of the city at night were resorted to, and numerous arrests were made. After a spell of arrests in which a handful of “suspicious persons” were rounded up for questioning, the killings stopped. However, since there was no incriminating evidence, all those summarily arrested had to be released. One of those temporarily summoned was not mentally fit to be questioned, but the media and police were quick to note that the killings had ceased.

To date, the crimes remain unsolved.

Stoneman in Guwahati

Similar incidents were reported in Guwahati city of Assam state during February 2008.

Popular culture

Producer Bobby Bedi produced a film titled The Stoneman Murders based on these incidents. The film released on Feb 13, 2009, starring Kay Kay Menon and Arbaaz Khan. It is written and directed by Manish Gupta, the writer of the Bollywood film, Sarkar. Gupta said that his story for the movie is 40% fact and 60% fiction.


External links

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